Incheon fans throw out ‘manners’ in provocative ceremony

Irrational fan behavior or the rise of a new rivalry?

On March 11, Incheon United welcomed FC Seoul to its stadium for a K League 1 12th round matchup, and a water bottle throwing incident occurred.

The match between the two teams, dubbed the “Gyeongin Derby,” was heated throughout the day with fights and nerves. The referee issued seven warnings and one ejection. The warnings and ejections piled up right at the end of the first half, when Incheon took the lead through 홀덤 Mugosa’s goal in the 36th minute.

The incident in question came as the whistle blew to end the match. After Seoul goalkeeper Baek Jong-beom stopped Incheon’s final attack, he raised his arms and roared toward the Incheon supporters’ section, and a number of Incheon fans began throwing water bottles at Baek and Seoul players. Seoul captain Ki Sung-yong stepped in to protect Baek Jong-bum and was pelted with water bottles, knocking him down.

The incident, which was stopped after the Incheon players asked for restraint, is likely to lead to disciplinary action. According to the KFA rules, fans throwing objects on the ground can be punished by holding a home game without a crowd or a home game in a third region, imposing a fine of more than 3 million won, or closing the home and away stands.

In 2022, a Daegu FC supporter threw a water bottle at a home game against Suwon Samsung after being dissatisfied with a referee’s decision, resulting in a 10 million won ($11,000) fine for the Daegu club, but the incident involved a large number of people and injured players, so more punishment is expected. “A full-scale discussion will be held on the 13th after receiving the report from the match supervisor,” said a federation official.

The soccer world is divided on the incident. While there is a general consensus that savage rivalries should be confined to the field, there is also a consensus that derbies in the past have been stories of savagery and irrationality. There are also hopes that Incheon can fill the void left by Suwon Samsung, who dropped to the K League 2 (2nd Division) this year. The next match between Seoul and Incheon will be held on July 27 at the same venue.